Spaying and neutering are common procedures performed by veterinarians and encouraged or required when adopting from shelters. But what are these procedures and why are they so important? Spaying – a surgery to remove a female animal’s uterus and ovaries, and neutering – a surgery to remove a male animal’s testicles, prevent the animal from reproducing. This can have significant health benefits for the animal and can curb some unwanted behaviors. It’s also the most important way to reduce the pet overpopulation crisis. Below are some of the benefits of spaying and neutering and answers to common owner questions and concerns.
In female dogs and cats, spaying reduces the risk of pyometra (a dangerous infection of the uterus that requires surgery), uterine cancer, and mammary tumors or breast cancer. Neutering males reduces the risk of testicular cancer, perianal tumors, and enlargement of the prostate. For outdoor cats, spaying and neutering can help prevent FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, sometimes called Feline AIDS) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), which are spread through contact with other cats, by reducing their fighting and mating behaviors. All of these health benefits will allow your pet to live a longer and healthier life!
Many people choose to spay and neuter their pets to reduce unwanted behaviors. For example, female cats are prone to pacing and yowling when in heat, while intact male cats will roam and urine-mark as a territorial and sexual behavior. Un-neutered dogs and cats are much more likely to be hit by a car or suffer bites from other animals. These behaviors can lead to damage to your home and costly vet visits. By neutering male dogs, you will reduce urine-marking, excessive barking, mounting of other animals, people, or objects, and other aggressive or dominant behaviors that could cause fights with other dogs. Spaying females will prevent the messy heat cycle. Once spayed or neutered, your pets will be less preoccupied with fighting and finding a mate and will tend to be more affectionate and attentive to you. While unwanted behaviors are reduced, your pet will still have the same personality and will remain bonded to you and protective of you and your family. These benefits can be achieved at any life stage, so it’s never too late to spay or neuter!
Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized around the U.S. every year due to overpopulation, overcrowding of shelters, and lack of homes for the animals. This includes puppies, kittens, and perfectly healthy, adoptable animals. Routinely spaying and neutering is not only beneficial to your pet, it is the most effective way to combat the problem of pet overpopulation and reduce homelessness and euthanasia of dogs and cats. While it is tempting to let our pets have their own litters of cute puppies or kittens, this adds to the number of animals needing homes and takes homes away from the millions of animals already living in shelters.
Despite the many benefits of spaying and neutering, many owners are understandably concerned about their pets undergoing these surgeries. Below are answers to some of the most common questions and concerns regarding spaying and neutering.
Doesn’t my pet need those body parts and hormones?
While reproductive hormones are natural and beneficial in many ways, the health and behavioral benefits of spaying and neutering outweigh the costs. For certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and large breed dogs, there could be benefits to having the surgery a bit later. Ask your veterinarian when to best spay or neuter your pet, based on their breed and lifestyle, and how to mitigate the risk of unintended breeding in the meantime. If you are not concerned about the behaviors of an intact animal, there is also the option to have a hysterectomy or vasectomy, which leaves the ovaries or testicles intact and will therefore have less of an impact on the animal’s hormones. However, these procedures are much less commonly performed.
My dog/cat should get to have at least one litter first. I don’t want to emasculate my dog/cat.
Our dogs and cats don’t necessarily have the same desires or social expectations that we humans feel, so it’s best not to anthropomorphize too much! By spaying and neutering, you are sparing your pet from a lot of unpleasant experiences – going into heat, being pursued by other animals, getting into fights, and the risk of illnesses and cancers discussed above. It’s a small price to pay, and your pets will be happier and healthier for it!
Spaying and neutering is very routine and a relatively inexpensive surgery. Think of it as an investment! Compared to the cost of raising a litter, pets roaming and getting lost, getting into fights, damage to the furniture from urine-marking, or treating other health issues that result from your pet remaining intact, this one time surgery is much more affordable! In the long run, it will save on your pet’s health care costs. Many areas have local low-cost options as well. Some shelters and non-profits offer lower costs with the help of government subsidies and donations. Make sure to check with your vet to find the best option and to make sure that your pet receives adequate follow-up care.
Will it hurt? I don’t want my pet to go through unnecessary pain.
Spaying and neutering are two of the most common procedures your vet performs. While all surgeries come with some amount of risk, these are definitely safer, more routine surgeries. Your pet will be asleep under general anesthesia throughout the surgery and will not feel anything. Afterwards, you will be sent home with medication to keep your pet comfortable. Remember never to give your pet human medicine without the approval of your veterinarian. Human Advil, for example, is especially toxic for dogs, and Tylenol for cats.
Will my pet gain weight?
The most important thing you can do to keep your pet at a healthy weight is to make sure they get exercise and eat a healthy diet! If your pet is overweight, try reducing their food intake by 20%, and cut down on treats or eliminate human food from their diet. Your vet can help you make a plan for this. Spaying or neutering is not the main factor in your pet’s weight.
Spaying and neutering is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your pet. Make sure to consult with us about any questions or concerns you may have!